1) Active listening: Active listening is one of the most powerful tools in modern communicative leadership as, in general, leaders who exercise the most influence over their employees are powerful listeners. Employees want to be understood and listening is a prerequisite for understanding. At the same time active listening has a strong motivating factor. Although many leaders in all walks of life claim to be good listeners, due to a general human self-centeredness, one often does not listen carefully to what other people are saying. This is also the case in the corporate world. Careful and adept leaders concentrate on what their employees say, both at the verbal and non-verbal levels. One of the biggest challenges in practicing active listening is to wait and avoid giving way to the temptation of trying to oppose one's will on someone else. This becomes especially important in leadership as a leader has a certain organizational power given to him by the company, and this might hinder active listening as far as what the subordinates say. In the worst case scenario, leaders try to justify their position and reasoning and accuse the employee of being wrong. This impedes the flow of information. Active listening means that during any discussion with employees one has to paraphrase the statements made by the employees from time to time to show them one's interest. Leaders should also listen carefully to the tone of voice of their employees to determine whether they are confident and excited (signs of confidence are speaking enthusiastically) or whether they are worried (signs of being worried include speaking quickly with a shaky voice). The exercise of active listening also means that leaders should listen to which words their employees stress knowingly or unknowingly as this inflection might fully change the meaning of a sentence. Leaders should also watch the non-verbal clues such as frowns, smiles and crossed arms, and also for when employees try to avoid eye contact. If someone says yes but shakes their head from side to side that is definitely a sign of mixed feeling and not agreement. Leaders should also decode silence such as when an employee agrees with the objectives set for him but does not do anything to reach them. This will be a definite sign of disagreement. Leaders should follow the following steps to make sure that they are practicing active listening:
- One should establish eye contact, should nod with the head from time to time and lean slightly forward,
- One should make sure to use terms such as "I see", "That is interesting" and "Please go on",
- One should validate the employee's feelings and opinions without showing direct agreement or disagreement with statements such as "I understand why you could behave like that",
- One should try to clear up misconceptions,
- One should paraphrase the employee's statement from time to time,
- One should state one's own perception and ask for feedback from the employee and even clarification,
- One should definitely make a summary by focusing on the facts,
- One should inform the employee about the future steps,
- One should thank the employee at the end.
During the leadership seminar, our clients practice a number of role-plays and activities to improve their active listening.
© M.Khorasani Consulting